Niger's primary connection to modern American politics is due to the controversy surrounding President George W. Bush's claim in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Saddam Hussein was attempting to acquire uranium from an unnamed African country. That claim was based on a report that Iraq had attempted to negotiate the purchase of uranium from Niger; the report had been investigated and found false by three different American officials, including former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had begun his diplomatic career with a posting to Niger. The Niger uranium controversy grew more heated when Wilson publicized that the Bush administration had already known the reports were false prior to the claim being made; the controversy was later eclipsed by the "Plamegate" scandal when the Bush administration retaliated against Wilson for doing so.
There are two uranium mines operating in Niger, both of which are located in the Sahara desert. Both mines are operated by a French company, COGEMA, though the mines themselves are owned by consortia. One mine is owned by SOMAIR (Société des Mines de l'Aïr), a joint-venture of COGEMA and the Government of Niger. The other is owned by COMINAK (Compagnie Minière d'Akouta), a joint-venture of COGEMA, the Government of Niger, OURD (a Japanese company), and ENUSA (a Spanish company). Because of the relatively high cost of extracting uranium from these mines as compared to lower-cost operations in Canada, the mines operate at a loss. They exist solely to provide uranium to the countries which participate in the consortium. The mines currently produce a total of 3,000 metric tons of uranium per year.
- COGEMA (2003). Worldwide Mining Operations. Retrieved May 30, 2004.
- Wilson, Joseph (2004). The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity. New York: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-1378-X.